William Eichler 11 March 2016

Government should lead the way in encouraging whistleblowers, report says

The Government must do more to create the right environment for public sector whistleblowers to come forward, a new report says.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) expressed its concern over the fact the Cabinet Office was ‘unable to provide any evidence about which departments were performing well, and which were lagging behind’ when it comes to encouraging people to blow the whistle on public sector malpractice.

Meg Hillier MP, chair of the PAC, highlighted the importance of whistleblowing.

‘Whistleblowers,’ she said, ‘are on the frontline of defence against wrongdoing and bad practice. They have a vital role to play in the day-to-day accountability of public spending and public service.’

The PAC report, however, stated it was ‘disappointed by the lack of urgency shown [by the Government] in dealing with this important topic’.

It accused Whitehall of focusing on policy and process, and claimed the Government was failing to create a culture that would encourage people to voice their worries about practices in the public sector.

In the past there have been occasions — such as with the case of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham - where whistleblowers were silenced and a culture of complicity prevented people from coming forward.

Ms Hillier MP said: ‘Whistleblowing policies are too important to get wrong and the Government should be leading by example. The fact that it isn’t should concern us all.’

She continued: ‘Our Committee wants to see universal measures put in place now to encourage whistleblowers to come forward, secure in the knowledge they will be supported and treated fairly throughout the process.

‘There is little doubt that in the past potential whistleblowers will have been deterred by the shoddy treatment experienced by others. It is not beyond the scope of Government to change that, in its own workplaces and beyond.’

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